A Lesson from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) -
Our customer promise We do what we say® is also the promise we make to ourselves and our colleagues, as a core company value we uphold – the value of integrity. Just as important, it is part of the foundation of our strong standards and code of ethics at Day & Zimmermann.
The Webster Dictionary definition of integrity is "state of being complete" or whole. As a civil engineer, I have endeavored to design complex systems to be compete and whole; free of defect. The more complex the system, the more important it became to be sure that the design solution met the standard or became integral to success without shortcuts. The end result is enduring trust and reliability.
The very basis of integrity, as one our core values, requires strong innovation and collaboration within our teams. As our projects and standards become more complicated through growth and diversification, integrity becomes ever more critical.
As we review history, from the beginning of time, we know that leadership will fail without upholding integrity. Look at Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli or Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos for recent examples of leaders lacking integrity (honesty, fair play, and transparency) with their clients. These stories illustrate how their character, decisions, and actions led to their demise, while deceiving and harming many people in their path.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave the commencement speech at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) this past May. (Tillerson started out as a Civil Engineer I might add)
Below are a few of his points regarding truth and integrity I would like to share:
- Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.
- A central tenant of a free society/free people is access to the truth. The very freedom to seek truth is the essence of freedom itself.
- The essence of a free democratic society is bound in a fierce defense of truth supported by a diverse people group that are free to explore and find solutions to problems confronting us.
- Conceal the truth and we are on a pathway of relinquishing that freedom.
A former instructor at VMI, Retired Sergeant Major for the Marine Corps, Al Hockaday, repeatedly told me that we are born with our integrity. He added "Integrity is the most valuable asset one possesses and it is the one asset an individual can choose to lose." I never forgot that lesson.